The Resurrection: The Faith of the Church
Its confession time. I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. I don’t usually do it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper. Here’s what it said.
“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.
Interestingly, the advert said nothing about what they were looking for in candidates, nothing about what the role required. It didn’t need to. I confess that purely out of curiosity I visited the website of www.southaustralia.com . Yes I did and it is true.
Then reality caught up with me. I remembered my age (54) and my recent medical hiccups and my heart sank. And my soul yearned to be 20 years younger…
If only… Do you ever do that? Do you ever feel life has passed you by? Do you ever feel over the hill? That you have had a raw deal? That you have been short-changed? That time is running out? Like the sand in the egg timer? If only you could turn it upside down and start again? Well you can – kind of!
Because of Easter. Because the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ has radical implications for the way we view the future. For the way we view life and death. Lets discover how the resurrection of Jesus transformed the lives of his followers. How he gave them peace of mind. A sense of fulfillment from knowing and serving his purposes. And what he wants to say to use today too.
1. Transformed From Fear to Courage (The Eleven)
Jesus transformed the disciples fear into courage by coming for them. They met in secret, hiding, behind locked doors. They were not expecting Jesus. He could have rebuked them for their unfaithfulness, their cowardice during the previous few days, but he did not. There is no rebuke, no “how could you?” Jesus doesn’t scold or shame them. The first words out of his mouth show one thing: He accepts them. Can you imagine the relief and the joy that must have flooded their hearts? These first words of Jesus after His resurrection are almost identical to what He said shortly before He was arrested in John 16:33:
“I told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
1.1 Jesus gives his peace to live in
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)
The disciples were afraid. The word “fear” in verse 19 carries with it the idea of “flight.” The disciples were so alarmed and frightened that they wanted to bolt. Now, contrast this with the word, “peace,” which is defined as “putting together that which is broken.” Jesus knows they are afraid so He says “Shalom” to them, which literally means, “All good to you.” He came to bring peace. The cross is the sign of peace, the cross is the means to peace. Jesus comes to them and reassures them. He shows them his wounds. They were to be sure it was Jesus and not another person. Not a ghost or apparition. This peace Jesus gives has at least 4 dimensions:
• Peace with God (Romans 5:1)
• Peace in difficult times (John 14:27; 16:33)
• Peace in our relationships (Ephesians 2:14-18)
• Peace with the past (Romans 8:1)
Do you understand that Jesus wants to extend peace to you and I as well? He doesn’t gloss over your past. He is well aware of the mistakes we have made.
He knows how we’ve scorned Him, denied Him, and rejected Him when we should have been speaking up for Him. Yet He still extends peace. When He sees you He says, “Shalom.” Jesus gives his peace to live in.
1.2 Jesus gives his purpose to live by
“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
The first use of the word “peace” in verse 19 was given in order to quiet their hearts. This second “peace” was given in order to prepare them for a fresh statement of their purpose as initially given in John 17:18: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” He not only accepts them but He entrusts them with the message of the gospel. He believes in them and so He commissions them. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
In his book The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren reports on a survey that found 89% of church members believe the church’s purpose is to “take care of my needs and those of my family.” Only 11% said, “The purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21). We keep raising the profile of evangelism as our first priority at Christ church because we recognize what Mark Mittelberg calls it the “second law of spiritual dynamics.” Left to ourselves we move toward self-centeredness.
Jesus gives his peace to live in and his purpose to live by.
1.3 Jesus gives his power to live on
“And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:22-23)
We usually think that the Day of Pentecost was the birthday of the church. It wasn’t. It was more like her baptismal day. This day was the birthday of the church, when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. 50 days later they received the power of the Holy Spirit to enable them to be witnesses of Jesus.
If you sometimes feel a little overwhelmed when prompted to bring Jesus into a conversation, remember Jesus not only calls, he equips and empowers as well. We need his presence and power too. Listen to what the Bible says the Holy Spirit will do.
• He gives us the words to say (Luke 12:11,12)
• He convicts us, and our listeners of sin (John 16:8)
• He converts a hard heart (John 6:44)
• He sustains us in the difficult times (John 14:26,27)
• He gives focus and substance to our prayers (Romans 8:26)
• He gives us the abilities to do God’s will (1 Corinthians 12:7)
• He makes us more like Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:22-23)
When we give the Holy Spirit room to work He will surprise us again and again by what He does best. We are not alone. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.
If we’re serious about telling others about Jesus, then we must be intentional and resist the gravitational pull inward. When I find myself tempted by adverts offering a new life in South Australia with fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine, I remind myself of my purpose here – to know Jesus and make Jesus known. I remind myself of his power. That fruitfulness in evangelism is sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. How did Jesus transform them from fear to courage? He gives his peace to live in, his purpose to live by and his power to live on.
2. Jesus Transformed Thomas from Unbelief to Worship
“Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-25)
Thomas is a good warning to all of us not to miss meeting with the Lord's people on the Lord's day. Because Thomas was not there, he missed seeing Jesus Christ, he missed hearing his words of peace, he missed receiving His commission and gift of the Holy Spirit. He had to endure another week of fear and unbelief when he could have been experiencing joy and peace. Remember Thomas when you're tempted to stay in bed next Sunday, you never know what blessing you will miss.
Thomas' words contain a double negative, "I positively will not believe!" Jesus had heard Thomas' words.
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:26-27)
How gracious our Lord is to stoop to our level in order to lift us to where we ought to be. Thomas didn't need to touch the Lord's wounds. Seeing Jesus was sufficient. Jesus gentle rebuke is a warning to us all, "Stop becoming faithless but become a believer." Maybe God is saying the same to you today.
Faith is trusting Jesus beyond the horizon, much as we watch a ship sail out to sea, and over what we call the horizon. The boat gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears. But the horizon is merely the limit of our vision, the place beyond which our earth bound sight cannot go. The ship is still there, it has just moved. If we were lifted up or could follow we would see that the ship is just as big as it was when it left the harbour. So it is with faith. Faith is trusting God's word beyond, not in spite of, the limitations of our optic nerve.
Perhaps Thomas was so depressed he was ready to quit so he threw out this challenge never expecting to have to eat his own words. Face to face with Jesus his doubts evaporated.
"My Lord and my God." (20:28). This is the greatest profession of authentic personal faith found anywhere in the Bible. Not just the Lord but ‘my’ Lord, not just God but ‘my’ God.
See how the disciples moved from fear to courage, from unbelief to worship.
3. Jesus Transforms Us From Death to Life
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)
Here is the purpose for John's biography of Jesus.
John’s intention is that we experience the same relationship with God through Jesus Christ. When Jesus says, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe", it is a word for us.
It is not necessary to see Jesus in order to believe. It was necessary for the apostles to see him. It was a great blessing for the first Christians to see the risen Jesus, to know that he was alive; but that is not what saved them. They were saved not by seeing but by believing what they saw. They saw, believed and testified, risking there lives to do so. We are saved by believing what they saw.
The resurrection was like the final piece in the jigsaw of God’s progressive revelation. There was the evidence of the Old Testament scripture prophecies pointing to Jesus.
There were the miraculous signs and wonders which Jesus performed as proof of his divinity. There were the eye witness testimonies of those who saw him die and rise to life the third day just as he said he would. We believe by taking God at his word, and by placing our trust in Jesus, we experience the life that he promises. There was and is an energy which flows from Jesus, like a wind blowing, like running water, like light shining, a power which transforms the self consciousness of men and women. This energy is called ‘anastasis’ in Greek. The word ‘resurrection’ comes closest to it. On that first Easter day the ten disciples were transformed from fear to courage by meeting Jesus. A week later Thomas was transformed from unbelief to confidence. And that was just the beginning of the Church.
The Apostle John also wrote a letter to reinforce the message of his gospel. In it he explains his reasons. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-13)
Do you have that assurance? Do you know that you have eternal life? If not, repent of your sins and receive the Risen Jesus as your Lord and Saviour today.
If you have, then recognize he gives us his peace to live in, his purpose to live by and his power to live on. In the same letter John writes,
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
The resurrection of Jesus provides a glimpse all God intends for us. The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope of what God is and will continue to do in us and through us. Through the resurrection Jesus gives his peace to live in, his purpose to live by and his power to live on. Today, God the Father calls you to trust His Son, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and let Him transform you by the power of His Spirit, from someone who is living to die into someone who is dying to live.
Let us pray.
I am grateful to Richard Tow and Brian Bill for some of the ideas and illustrations used in this sermon. See their sermons at www.sermoncentral.com